Highlighting Mark Cuban's memorable exchanges involving the Lakers
Should he run into Mavericks owner Mark Cuban at American Airlines Arena Wednesday night, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson faces a number of options.
Will he scold Cuban for describing him two weeks ago as Jeanie Buss' boy toy? Or will Jackson thank him for the compliment? Will he remind Cuban that his prediction that Caron Butler's season-ending right knee injury has proven right so far with Dallas entering Wednesday night's matchup against the Lakers with a six-game losing streak? Or will Jackson flash one of his 11 championship rings to remind Cuban what he doesn't have? Will the two remain silent and keep the trash talking through the media? Or will Jackson just hope the Lakers' play takes care of it all?
History suggests neither of the two will back down, which certainly has made it fun for the media and fans alike. Below the jump are some of the memorable exchanges between Jackson and Cuban.
October 2000: Cuban suggests the Lakers spend like the Clippers
In what amounted to be a slow off-season for the Lakers, Cuban found that as evidence that the Lakers were increasing their profit margins at the expense of the team. Mavericks Coach Don Nelson also bragged that the organization acquired Christian Laettner before the Lakers could. Those comments didn't sit well with Jackson, who said Cuban "should keep his mouth shut" and suggested Cuban was breaking league rules by simply trying to buy a title. Lakers owner Jerry Buss also suggested new owners, such as Cuban, go through a learning curve in overseeing a franchise.
In turn, Cuban tried inserting a wedge between the Lakers' front office and players.
"As far as Phil telling me to keep my mouth shut, I will [when] he answers why the Lakers haven't signed a single player above the minimum this year, why they still haven't extended Shaq, and why they were trying to dump every multiyear contract they could other than Shaq and Kobe [Bryant]. I'm listening, Phil, because us new guys want to understand that strategy," Cuban said. "And while you are at it, Phil, could you also help this new guy out and tell me what you plan to tell those big-salary [players] next year when they ask where the 10% that is being deducted from their salaries for escrow is going to go? It won't be in your players' pockets. Where will it be? Us new guys really want to know."
Cuban's tweaks toward the Lakers and Jackson made team officials "incredulous," reported The Times' Tim Brown, who summed up, "it's officially a feud now."
"The thing I always remind myself," Cuban told The Times' Mark Heisler, "it's a business on the court, it's a business off the court -- but it's not world peace. These aren't real bullets that are flying."
November 2001: Cuban makes fun of Shaquille O'Neal's free-throw shooting
No one has ever praised O'Neal for his free-throw shooting, but few ever described it in these terms -- that he shoots like a 10-year-old. The Times' Brown reported that remark didn't make O'Neal happy one bit, but e-mail exchanges between Brown and Cuban showed the Dallas owner backtracking while adding another dig toward Jackson.
"Feel free to write any of this," Cuban wrote to Brown, "as long as you say that I think he is the best of what makes the NBA great. Few people in this world are able to laugh at themselves and not take themselves too seriously. Shaq is the best of them. He knows I don't take myself too seriously at all, and that's why we can have some fun."
"Infuriate him? The Big Aristotle?" Cuban continued. "You don't give Shaq enough credit. Unlike his coach, I think he plays hard all the time. I don't think he gets mad to take it to another level. Talking about his free throws is like him talking about my money. It's part of the media game and he has fun with it. So do I. Shaq and I are friends and I can assure you he always is out to beat us as bad as he can, regardless of anything else said. We have talked in the past and he knows I am going to do what it takes to win, just like I know he is going to do the same. By the way, any idea what his free-throw shooting percentage is since the Phoenix game, when the refs said something?"
October 2002: Cuban accuses Jackson of misrepresenting a rule
O'Neal's tendency to stumble into the lane as part of his free-throw mechanics became a topic of conversation during coaches' meetings in Chicago, a topic that The Times' Brown reported also dealt with Anthony Mason. But that didn't stop Jackson from bemoaning that the league approved another "Shaq-rule."
Upon hearing about Jackson's gripe, Cuban accused him of misinterpreting the rule. "There's nothing worse than someone who thinks the rules should be different for them," Cuban told Brown. "This is a game where it's at its best when everyone plays by the same rules and the best players stand out. When people complain that they can't get special treatment, it's usually because they need it. Shaq should be on his hands and knees, thanking me. No one else seemed to want to stand up ... about his stepping over the free-throw line. I did. He knew he was wrong and fixed it. That's what great players do. If no one had spoken up, he would have gone down in history as the big guy with three rings that wasn't strong enough to get a free throw to the basket without stepping on the line."
When told of Cuban's comments, O'Neal grinned and said, "tell Mark I said, 'Thank you very much.' "
August 2003 - Cuban suggests Bryant's sexual assault case would boost NBA ratings
In a statement that sparked ire from the NBA, the Lakers and Jackson, Cuban suggested that Bryant's pending sexual assault case, which was eventually dropped, would help the league's rankings.
"From a business standpoint, it's great for the NBA," Cuban said on "Access Hollywood." "It's reality television, people love train-wreck television and you hate to admit it, but that's the truth. ... "I'm not saying it's a positive reflection of who we are as a country," he said. "It's just reality. It sells papers, it increases TV ratings. The NBA will benefit from that."
Cuban, who had been fined numerous times for criticizing officials, instead received a strongly worded statement from Commissioner David Stern, something The Times' Thomas Bonk simply described as Cuban getting his "wrist slapped."
"Any suggestion that there will be some economic or promotional benefit to the NBA arising from the charge pending against Kobe Bryant is both misinformed and unseemly," Stern said in a statement. "That idea does not reflect the views of the NBA, NBA owners generally or others associated with our sport."
October 2003: Lakers at fault for O'Neal-Bryant feud
The outcry over Cuban's remarks about Bryant's pending legal case didn't stop him from commenting on the Lakers' star. This time, Cuban cast blame on the Lakers organization for not solving the problems surrounding the O'Neal-Bryant relationship.
"If the president and the CEO of a corporation were speaking publicly like that, you'd have to say the board of directors was doing something wrong," Cuban told The Times' Steve Springer. "By the time a problem grows in an organization to where the most visible figures are venting publicly, it means ... people are not doing their jobs. The organization didn't deal with the problem. If you don't recognize it in advance, it's going to come to a head. If someone has to vent publicly, it's probably not the first place they looked to vent. You would think they first tried to deal with it internally."
It wasn't clear, however, whether Cuban was specifically blaming Buss, General Manager Mitch Kupchak or Jackson, though Cuban added, ""If anybody can repair the problem, probably Phil Jackson can."
"It's not a backhanded slap at anyone," Cuban told Springer. "If we had two players who feuded publicly, I'd be mad at myself because none of that should happen on its own. Rare is the time you see us nail a player in public.... I can't speak to the Laker organization, but if there's an issue with the Mavericks, I may not be the best person to communicate with the player, but I'll make sure the person who is is involved."
December 2006 - Jackson accuses Cuban of intimidating referees
Jackson asserted that Cuban's public comments are nothing more than a ploy to intimidate referees. That inspired Cuban to write an eight-paragraph blog post headlined "I Own Phil Jackson."
"For whatever reason, I have gotten to Phil so completely and thoroughly that every time he comes to Dallas he has to offer unsolicited comments about me to the media," said Cuban, who also described Jackson as his "bucket boy." "I wonder if he dreams about me the nights he spends here in Dallas. OK, I don't wonder. I'm curious about it. How can the NBA coach with so many championship rings find me so intimidating? I really don't know."
Jackson in turn also said the referees turned into "nervous Nellies" at Dallas home games because Cuban sends tapes of questionable calls to the league.
"Of course the officials weren't intimidated," Cuban wrote in response. "Maybe, instead of being so concerned with Mark Cuban, Phil should be worried about the new rule in place that causes a player to be suspended a game after he gets his 16th technical foul of the season" - a clear shot at Bryant, who led the league with Rasheed Wallace at the time with 11 T's.
Jackson responded, as reported by The Times' Mike Bresnahan, that Cuban is "easy to tweak" and that he promised to "copyright myself" so Cuban could indeed own him.
January 2007 - Cuban gives a rare compliment to Bryant, Jackson
For once, Cuban decided to say something nice about the Lakers while the Mavericks enjoyed the NBA's best record (27-8).
"Kobe [Bryant] is one of the top two or top three players in the NBA, if not the best, and he's got a top coach," Cuban told The Times' Springer. "So that's a combination that works well together. There is the perception sometimes that it's Kobe's game to do what he wants. If that were the case, there would be no need for Phil Jackson. Phil earns his money and does a great job."
Don't mistake this for a sudden love fest. Within moments of complimenting Jackson's coaching, Cuban then took a mild dig at the Zen Master. This was in regard to Dallas signing former Laker Devean George.
"I don't know how you guys [the Lakers] let him get away, I swear," Cuban told Springer. "Just looking at the offensive stats, OK, maybe [George] wasn't a big impact player. But Phil, in the past, has called him his best perimeter defender. He was right. Phil got that right and we thank him.
October 2009 - Cuban believes Ron Artest will destroy the Lakers' chemistry
There were plenty of concerns -- Laker fans among them -- about how Artest would fit in with the Lakers after signing with them to a five-year, $33 million deal in the 2009 off-season. The uncertainty went beyond his reputation, stemming from his role in the brawl that spilled into the stands in Detroit in 2004. Many also wondered how Artest would fit in on a championship-built roster and handle a depleted role.
Consider one of those skeptics to be Cuban, who voiced his concerns in an ESPN Radio interview.
"Could you imagine? Ron Artest has got the ball and Kobe's standing there, 'Throw me the ball.' Thank you, Ron Artest."
Prior to the Lakers-Mavericks game on Oct. 29, Cuban then told The Times' Bill Dwyre that if Artest didn't work out for the Lakers, he'd hire him to work at Dairy Queen, a place he worked at for a day in 2002 after saying NBA refs couldn't manage that franchise.
"I could teach him how to make those neat swirls," Cuban said to Dwyre.
The Lakers shared mixed reactions. Artest played along: "It's important that Mark Cuban says stuff like that. It's great for the fans. It's something to read and it keeps it interesting. Nobody is really getting hurt. It's just words. I think the fans like that. That's why I love this game." Jackson wasn't amused: "I like a lot of Mark's comments. He's done a lot for the league, he's done a lot for that franchise. But when he attacks players, that does get to your family and you just don't want to have him talk about your family."
September 2010 - Cuban argues the Mavericks have more depth and size than the Lakers. Apparently forgetting that the Lakers have two 7-footers in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum as well as 6-foot-10-inch Lamar Odom, Cuban argued the Mavericks have more size and depth because the acquisition of Tyson Chandler will help complement Brendan Haywood. I explained in detail why Cuban's contention was wrong, so no need to regurgitate what's already been said.
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Photo: Dallas owner Mark Cuban has been known over the years for making bold claims to the media. Credit: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Photo: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson disagrees with an official's call during the first half against the Nets on Sunday. Credit: Jim O'Connor / US Presswire